If you make cheese, particularly any volume of hard cheese, you’re going to have left over whey. If you happen to find miniature cucumbers on sale, like me, you’ll want to make lacto-fermented pickles! After scouring many recipes on the inter-webs I found an interesting phenomenon – many lacto-fermented recipes call for the addition of whey to your brine. While this initially seems like a good idea, if you think about it for a moment, it doesn’t make a whole lot sense. Whey has been inoculated with whatever cultures you used in your cheese making. These cultures have been chosen for their ability to efficiently convert the milk sugar lactose into lactic acid. But, veggies do not have lactose! The lacto in lacto-fermentation actually refers to lactic acid that is produced by Lactobacillus – not milk lactose. Lactobacillus is a naturally occurring good bacteria present on veggies. While the end product of these different bacteria is the same and desirable for similar reasons, the pathways are not – they don’t eat the same thing. The similarity in name may explain some confusion about adding whey to fermenting veggies. While adding good bacteria to our food is the basis for many wonderful products, and this blog, adding incompatible bacteria doesn’t make sense, and in my opinion, is asking for problems.
I did a batch of wild fermented pickles using a salt brine with added tannin from black tea. They turned our crisp and zingy. No whey needed! If you are concerned about letting your beautiful produce ferment wildly, you can purchase cultures selected for lacto-fermentation at sites like Cultures for Health.
If anyone knows of another reason for including whey in lacto-fermented veggies, I’d love to hear from you!
Stay tuned for more whey related posts and ideas how to use that sticky golden leftover!